Russell Byard

On the kind of disruption that’s coming this way

How much disruption are we going to see in property development?

An equivalent of this much: On Monday we saw a line up of Lachlan Murdoch and several of the leading luminaries on the media planet. They were launching a company that would pay your phone bill if only you agree to look at certain ads. In return you must also open your wallet, heart and soul to the data crawlers that will package you up into neat segments of aligned consumers and offer you to the sellers of whatever.

It’s so clever it’s gobsmacking. And don’t think you can cheat on the ad watching. There is no doubt they will be watching you in the reverse camera on the phone or asking for you to engage and play a little game to ensure you are paying attention.

Fine. We need to find ways to pay for all the stuff they say is now free but we know really isn’t free since we all need to eat and go somewhere to sleep and someone somewhere has to pay.

It might be nimble, it might be quick, when it’s building rubbish in the burbs, but in terms of how the property industry generally does its business, it’s time for a big shakeup.

Nightingale for instance.

On Monday we pored through the most fascinating document in the green building movement of recent times. It was a judgement by senior member of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Russell Byard.

The case in question involves whether a sustainable apartment building should be forced to have car parking or not.

But the real story it seemed was Byard running a ruler under a new collaborative development model, using his practised eye of honed conventional development. It makes for illuminating reading.

You can see he struggled with the concept.

In many cases he was dismissive of what he thought were flimsy attempts to create affordable housing.

He spent quite a bit of energy on this, researching the sales in The Commons across the road, which was the prototype for this susty/affordable project and found a two bedroom apartment had sold for what he said was an unaffordable price of $600,000. (He should take a look at the prices in Sydney.)

Why this has a bearing on the parking situation is that the Moreland City Council decided to waive entirely all parking requirements because of the desire of the developers to outperform on sustainability (no airconditioning), community outcomes, affordability and a host other related issues.

In any case Byard, who is also a barrister and should know better, ignored the covenants in place at Nightingale to limit any price increases to relevant market averages and to first offer a sale to a limited buyer pool in line with the thinking in the development.

He also ignored the developer’s promise to make all financial documents transparent to buyers and to limit profit to 15 per cent.

He made dismissive comments about the energy savings from eschewing airconditioning and he said being green was no excuse to avoid car parking.

In the end the development’s high aims have been lopped. There must be cars. The developers who include 17 “social investors” were no doubt grateful the final ruling was for three cars and not seven, as requested by the claimants, developers next door.

NSW about to get firey again

Here’s something else disruptive and concerning – the cracks that might be appearing on yet another promised saviour of the modern world, NSW premier Mike Baird and Environment Minister Rob Stokes.

We keep coming across fans of this pair with growing jokes about the bromances from the blokes and the women nodding in approval. It’s the Malcolm Turnbull effect again.

But watch closely to what happens next.

This week we saw legislation passed to allow redevelopment of strata apartments with just 75 per cent approval by unit owners.

Sounds all very practical but the practice is loaded with hazards. What happens to people who can’t afford to relocate in the same area, especially if their place is run down and old which is why people want to redevelop it? There are heaps of issues, many of which can be managed because there is a very real need to manage old apartment buildings that are past their use by date. But like all good ideas it’s in the execution that it will thrive or be decried. Lots of work to do yet on that front.

Next is the tensions over the planning reforms that have been bubbling away on the state’s backburner since the Cumberland Plan ceased to be relevant.

With all the good will shown to the Premier and Rob Stokes’ PhD in environmental planning law there’s a good chance this government will push through significant changes. Already the Greater Sydney Commission has been formed, meeting the calls of many in development and planning and even tentatively approved by wary community groups.

But from what we hear that’s all about to change if a recent community planning meeting in Sydney’s Hurlstone Park is any guide.

According to our source the room was packed and more angry than they’d seen for a long time. Standing room only. The fear is that lovely single storey houses 400-800 metres from the station will be demolished and replaced with higher density.

The source of the anger is that these plans aren’t fairly distributed; that some will have to bear the burden while others retain their quiet enjoyment.

Worse is the sense the community is getting a sense that this is a push-through at any cost manoeuvre.

Details and story will come soon, but brace for some fireworks.

Not cool, Mr Premier

More concerning is the state government’s recent decision to block an Office of Environment and Heritage submission to a federal government inquiry into what Australia’s post-2020 carbon cutting target should be.

According to Fairfax Media, “it did not make it past Premier Mike Baird’s office but was obtained by Fairfax Media under freedom of information laws.” The article quotes the report:

Without “significant reductions” in global emissions, NSW alone would face a range of extreme weather, including maximum temperatures rising 3 degrees or more between now and 2070, it said.

Severe fire weather in spring would also increase bushfire risk and reduce the opportunity for hazard reduction burning, while fewer cold nights would hurt natural ecosystems, snow tourism and some agriculture.

South-eastern Australia has experienced a record-breaking heat wave to start October that helped fan a bushfire near Melbourne that had been lit to reduce fuel ahead of what is expected to be a difficult and long fire season.

There was no reason given other than it was a federal matter and “most other states” had not made submissions.

Disappointing Mr Baird.

See the full story here